The C's were at a crossroad as the Thursday trading deadline approached. They had two options: make the appropriate minor tweaks to their bench to make a run at putting together a championship team or muck their hand and look to the future.
Would they keep Ray Allen, the nine-time All-Star who played such a huge role in their success the past two seasons? Would they turn the expiring contracts on their roster into tangible assets that could help them for the stretch run? These answers turned out to be a resounding yes.
Danny Ainge honed in on the Celtics' one glaring need between now and April. Besides finding a time machine to make four of their core players a decade younger, they needed backcourt help, specifically a guard who could step in for Rajon Rondo off the bench and score in bunches.
In Nate Robinson, the Celtics got everything they wanted.
Little Nate is a lot more than just a 5-foot-9 whiz kid who can win dunk contests. He's a proven offensive catalyst and an explosive bench scorer that can breathe life into the Celtics' rotation down the stretch.
Last season, Robinson poured in a career-high 17.2 points per game despite rarely starting and seeing less than 30 minutes per night for the Knicks. This year, at 25, Robinson had seen a reduction in minutes during his time with the Knicks, but was having his best shooting season, at just over 45 percent for the first time in his career.
Robinson proved he was a commodity worth going after. And to wrest him away from the Knicks, all the Celtics had to do was give up the expiring contracts on their bench. Eddie House, J.R. Giddens and Bill Walker were certainly a fair price for the high-scoring guard. House is arguably the only player the Celtics will miss, but Robinson is a better fit for the Celtics anyway. He can easily play the point without becoming a liability, giving Rondo the best backup he's ever had in his four years in Boston.
For these Celtics, that's no small achievement. Robinson may not look like much on a Celtics roster packed with superstars, but he could be that missing piece of the puzzle in Boston.
This is the kind of deal Ainge knows how to make — the quiet, subtle, understated one that just might be that one missing link. Trades like this are brilliant in the most modest of ways. On paper, they don't jump out at you, but on the court, you see what they can do for the chemical balance of a basketball team.
Ainge looked at his roster and decided that his team wasn't in need of a big shake up this February. And he was right — all the Celtics needed was a little adjustment to ensure they'd be ready for the stretch run.
Robinson was the right adjustment. He might not be the biggest name on the market this season, but he was exactly what the doctor ordered.
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